Pop Culture

Horizon Zero Dawn Game Review 
By: Jacob Babich and Samridh Das

      Horizon Zero Dawn is a new game on PS4 developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The controls are medium in complication level. This game follows Aloy, an outcast of a tribe called the Nora. She became an outcast because of her father, Rost. This game takes place in the 21st century. As a pariah, Aloy has one chance to prove herself as a real tribe member through “the Proving,” which is a competition in which the two different rewards are winning a prize or becoming a tribe member.

      In the very beginning of the game, the player is a kid and falls into a cave after wandering off. The player ends up finding a weapon called The Focus, which allows him/her to track enemies.
In this world, all of humanity has reverted back to primitive houses made of wood, stick, and stone. This was caused by a group of children, who created millions of “killing machines.” These machines destroyed everything that humans have created before The Fallout.

      The group of children that created the machines work for Ares. Ares has corrupted the door that the player must enter to access a special room that will let the player learn the rest of the missing history, which includes family history and much more.

      Additionally, the player can unlock many skills that improve critical damage, aiming, speed of material gathering, and many others.

      In conclusion, Horizon Zero Dawn is a great game and we highly recommend it if you like video games and have a lot of time to kill!

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review
By Arca Baran

Keep in mind, while this review refrains from mentioning any major spoilers that would ruin the movie for anyone watching it, it isn't entirely unrelated to what happens in the movie. I will mention some basic plot details, as well as summarize the exposition of the story. So if you are a person who never watches movie trailers and goes to watch a movie knowing nothing about it, then this isn't the review for you. Otherwise, feel free to keep reading this.

Brief Plot Synopsis:

When the movie starts out, we see a young Han Solo performing one of his first heist jobs on the streets of his home planet Corellia. Together with a girl named Kira, they steal a piece of the extremely valuable material coaxium (which are metal cylinders full of blue energy). This ticks off a fish crime boss, who immediately sends a bunch of his (or her) henchmen after the two, while they engage in a high-speed hover car escape.

They find themselves in an Imperial spaceport in their reckless attempt to escape the henchmen. Han sees a piece of Imperial propaganda along the lines of "I Want You!" (with some determined finger-pointing by Uncle Vader, not Uncle Sam), and this gives him an idea. So, in the heat of the moment, he gets in line with Kira to join the Imperial Academy to hide from the bounty hunters who have put a price on his head.
However, his plan doesn't go quite the way he expects, and after the Imperial Academy admissions officer discovers that he has stolen coaxium, he is separated from Kira and forced into stormtrooper duty.
During his first battle, things don't go well due to his rebellious attitude and constant questioning of the Empire's cause ("How are we 'bringing peace and order to the galaxy' by attacking a planet that isn't ours?') He is soon fired from his job as a stormtrooper, and as punishment, they throw him into the "Monster's Pit." Guess who that hairy, growling "monster" happens to be?

He somehow finds a way to befriend Chewbacca, who at the time was a very aggressive Wookiee indeed (I won't spoil how they became friends, just watch the movie yourself to find out). Together, Han and Chewie escape the pit and are rescued by Beckett. Beckett is Han's Imperial boss, whom Han finds out was just in it for the money all along.

Beckett tells them he is putting together a crew for a notorious gangster and wants them to join. Although he is hesitant at first, Han eventually agrees, and together with Beckett, Chewie, and Dryden Vos (the leader of their crew), they perform a daring coaxium train heist of on the snow planet Vandor.

Just like any other plan that Han Solo is famous for, it goes wrong in one way or another. They backtrack a little bit after finding themselves face to face with a group of space pirates called the Cloud-Riders, who attack them to try to stop their heist.

They still manage to steal the coaxium, however, and this encourages them to heist (yet again, I know). Noticing a pattern here? So they decide to try out doing it on the planet Kessel, famous for its smuggling route that always took 17 parsecs to complete. Guess who decided to try to break that record?

In order to make the Kessel Run as efficiently as possible, Han needs the best ship possible. And that would be the Millenium Falcon, which at the time was being owned by his future-frenemy, Lando Calrissian. In order to win the ship from Lando, Han must beat him in a game of cards called Sabacc.

Will Han be able to claim the Falcon for himself? How does he get his nickname "Solo"? Will their heist go as expected? Will Han finally see Kira again? Or will the odds not be in his favor, resulting in a criminal goose-chase for him with just about every bounty hunter in the galaxy putting a price on his head? As Han Solo says, "Never tell  me the odds!" But if you really want to know, I suppose that you should go watch Solo: A Star Wars Story in theaters yourself!

My Opinions and Rating: Fan Service Done Right

So, what did I think of the movie? I felt very positive about this, actually. While I have been a huge fan of the Disney-era Star Wars movies so far (unlike some other people), what I saw from the trailers for this movie didn't appear to be as good of a movie as I was desperately hoping a young Han Solo movie to be. Thankfully, this movie went against my expectations in terms of quality. In terms of storyline, though? I would have to say that it was pretty straightforward and unsurprising. There is everything that you could possibly expect a Han Solo origin story to include. How he became such close friends with Chewie? Check. How he met Lando? Check. How he got the Millenium Falcon? Check. Even the seemingly meaningless question of "How did he get his blaster?" is answered. The plot is decently predictable right from the start. However, none of this makes Solo a bad movie.  It is very entertaining and full of action-packed scenes throughout. There are loads of funny moments, and it will make you laugh quite often (but it's still not the funniest Star Wars film). The visual effects are dazzling, and despite all the behind-the-scenes mess of reshoots and director changes, I was surprised that none of this is obvious when you are watching the movie.

I can tell that, first and foremost, this is meant to be a fan-service movie. Sure, the story is fine, and so are the new characters, but there is also an overwhelming amount of what is familiar. There are so many easter eggs and references hidden throughout that die-hard Star Wars fans will surely notice, even on their first-watching of the movie. This movie also has plenty of references and similarities to the Star Wars EU (AKA Legends), and fans of the Expanded Universe will be happy to know that Han's origin story here is somewhat similar to the one there (there is even one particular "SW Holiday Special" character thrown in there for good laughs). Everything from the Kessel Run, Holochess, and one particular surprise cameo (which I won't spoil for you), is meant for those fans who can brag to their other moviegoers, "I know something that you don't." But seriously though, that cameo at the end will have everyone who has watched the Star Wars TV shows (Clone Wars and Rebels) to be screaming out loud with excitement. Everyone else, though, will just be very confused about it.

Now to talk about the characters. Han, Chewie, and Lando act just the way that audiences have come to know and love. The new characters, though, I felt were mostly pretty boring. They were weakly written with little to no substance or story arc to them. The one exception to this, though, is Lando's droid L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). She has more personality than even Rogue One's K2-S0, and is a self-made robot constantly fighting for "droid equal rights." Alden Ehrenreich's performance as a young Han Solo is solid, but it doesn't quite match the roguish scoundrel played by Harrison Ford. The real star of the show, though, is Donald Glover's portrayal of Lando Calrissian. Lando is just as smooth, cunning, and clever as you would expect, and Glover's acting does a great job of bringing him to life. I would rate the movie 4.4 out of 5 stars, or 88%.

In conclusion, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a prequel that takes its pride in delivering plenty of fan service, without oversaturating a franchise that is already jam-packed with seemingly too much content (as the low box office numbers for this film prove). While its plot is very straightforward and its new characters aren't so memorable, it still manages to be an entertaining, fun-filled watch that answers all the questions about Han Solo's life that someone could possibly ever care to ask (even though it disappointingly lacks in information about his childhood). Ehrenreich's acting of Han Solo doesn't quite match Ford's, but Glover's Lando evens the two performances out in the end. While I feel safe in saying that this is the worst of the Disney Star Wars movies so far, it is highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of Han Solo as a character (or Chewbacca, or even Lando) should watch this movie. Seriously, though, just watch it. I mean, so far this movie hasn't been selling so great (a stark contrast from the billion-dollar revenues generated by the previous three modern Star Wars movies), and I really want Lucasfilm to continue making spin-off movies like these. It would be awesome to learn more about characters like Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Boba Fett in their own separate movies, and it seems like the folks at Disney are getting quite discouraged at the moment at the statistics for Solo. So, for the sake of seeing more spin-off Star Wars movies happen (and just for the sake of having a great time watching a movie), please go and watch Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Anki Vector Product Review
By: Saketh Ayyagari

      Some people may know the robotic company, Anki, and their third robot, Cozmo. This year, Anki released its newest AI (artificial intelligence) robot companion. Its name is Vector, and it is officially Anki’s first home robot. It is similar to Cozmo, but also very different in some ways.
First of all, Vector is like a personal assistant. It’s like a Google Home device, but with better features. It can tell you the weather, take photos, and even set a timer. Just say the words, “Hey, Vector,” and he will immediately reply to your command. When low on battery, Vector will automatically go to his charger to recharge his batteries. Vector likes to be petted, so not only is he like a home robot, but he’s also like your own animal companion. He has a touch sensor on his back that can be used to pet him.

      The best part is that, except for setup, you don’t need a smartphone or tablet to use him! Unlike Cozmo, where you need a device to use it, Vector is always on and never turns off since he is a home robot. Another great feature is that it is being included with Amazon Alexa!

      Furthermore, Vector is able to sense the environment all around him with the mechanical parts inside him. He is able to move autonomously like Cozmo, “as well as [being] able to avoid falling down like a tightrope walker,” as said in Anki's video. Like Cozmo, Vector has a camera on his head, which allows him to sense his cube and faces of people. To listen to commands, he has a microphone array in him. To sense objects, he has a laser distance sensor.

      After watching Anki’s video, it seemed pretty convincing to me to pre-order one. But, I would stick with Cozmo, since he is directed more towards kids and has a playful side to him. If you wish for a companion to play with, Cozmo could be great for you. But, if you are looking for a “trusty sidekick” to help you with some work, consider Vector instead. Just remember, Vector is directed more towards adults.

      If you are interested in buying a Vector, you can watch the video here. The future seems to be changing, and as Anki said in its video, “we are going to change the world, one Vector at a time!”

The Only Review That Matters: An 8th Grader’s Perspective of Pray For The Wicked
By: Ana Kristine

     On June 22, 2018, American alternative band Panic! At The Disco (yes, with an exclamation point) released their sixth full studio album entitled, Pray for the Wicked. This is a definitive review and if you disagree with me then you’re wrong (just kidding, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions). Sit back, relax, and agree with me wholeheartedly. You don’t have a choice.
     Now, I initially started to write this article while pumped up on coffee. Thus, my mind was running on overdrive, and I realized very quickly that I couldn’t rank these songs as initially planned. The reason being that, in the simplest of terms, they’re all way too good. Seriously, feast your eyes upon some of my review notes for the “worst” and “second-to-worst” songs:
     “Every song that Panic! produces is a blessing to humanity; ‘The Overpass’ just isn’t superior enough to warrant any spot but #11. If you like this song, you may also like that song that plays in every Party City commercial. You know the one.”
     “As with the rest of the album, ‘Dancing’s Not A Crime’ maintains a steady pop-like rhythm with the signature intellect expected of a Panic! song. Quite frankly, there’s nothing on this album that makes me go, ‘Hm. Those lyrics were terrible!’, and that’s gotta be a plus somehow.”
     So, instead of the ultra-critical super-professional review I had planned, this is just going to be me raving about the masterpiece that is Pray For The Wicked until I fill up this page. Seriously, this is such a good album. Now, I’m the type of person who thinks that Austrian death metal is a perfectly good genre. Maybe I was the wrong person to write a review. But, I like to believe that I can recognize when I hate something. And I definitely did not hate this album.
If it hasn’t become obvious enough, the only thing bigger than my love for this album is the lead singer Brendon Urie’s vocal range. My mom is, understandably, frustrated with not being able to go anywhere without hearing the booming sounds of Panic! At The Disco.
About as frustrated as I’ll be if you don’t go on to listen to Pray For The Wicked right this moment.
Do it.
I double dog dare you.
Go on, I won’t keep you.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review
By: Zaina Saif

     What is young Dumbledore wearing? How is McGongall even alive? Who is Credence Barebone? The second edition of the Harry Potter prequel series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, leaves even the most jaded “Potterhead” with many unanswered questions.
     The two hour, thirteen minute film creates many subplots in the already convoluted “potterverse.” It is centered on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who was previously introduced in the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The new movie picks up in New York, in the mid-1920s, at the end point of the last movie.
     No matter how high your level of Harry Potter knowledge, trying to follow the plot of the movie is not easy. It starts out with Grindelwald - as the controversial Johnny Depp - in jail after his infiltration of the American magical congress. Grindelwald escapes prison and the movie goes on to provide a backstory for Dumbledore and Gridelwald’s relationship. Dumbledore is unable to fight Grindelwald (possibly because of a blood pact made early on) and that is when The Crimes of Grindelwald introduces our hero, Newt Scamander. Newt goes into battle against Grindelwald and they both take on the task of finding a boy with incredibly powerful magic - Credence Barebone.
The movie then follows Newt and Grindelwald attempting to locate Credence in Paris. This “chase for Credence” is where J.K. Rowling, the screenwriter, throws the most hastily assembled and quite disturbing political allegory at the viewers. Fans have definitely begun to speculate about Rowling’s connection to Hitler and Nazi Germany during the 1930s.
     The movie’s plot, basically, is for Newt to find Credence before Grindelwald does. As these two characters battle head to head to find Credence and acquire his powerful magic, many confusing subplots are introduced. We catch a peek of Nicholas Flammel, hidden baby-killings (yes, you heard me right), and many, many more fantastic beasts. Although Rowling keeps trying to make Newt, Credence, and Grindelwald the narrative’s center, the viewers attention longingly shifts to Queenie (a delightful Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler). Queenie and Jacob are part of the film’s more light hearted line of plot.
     That is, until Queenie decides to join wizard fasicm because Jacob doesn’t want to marry her. The movie also loses the viewers at cases of mistaken identity, dramatic flashbacks, and several different moments that disrupt the established canon (officially part of the fictional universe) timeline of the Harry Potter universe.
     To put it not-so-lightly, I feel that this installment in the Fantastic Beasts film series has such a twisted plot that it makes sense to only the most devoted Harry Potter fans. To understand (and bear) the complex connections, the goals of the characters, and essentially the entire plot, you would need to have a deep love for the “Potterverse.” As a very devoted Harry Potter fan, I like to focus on the positives of our wondrous fandom. But, I would also like to say that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is certainly not a movie for everyone.

Spiderman PS4: An Honest Review
By: Samridh Das

      He swings through the streets of New York City. He shoots webs and defeats enemies threatening the innocent. A hero like no other. Spider-Man! Except now, you, the user, get to play as him. But, is it worth the hefty 60 dollar price tag? Well, I’m here to justify whether you should buy this game.
     First things first, let’s get a bit of history about this game and the previous ones. Now, if you surf the web for Spider-Man video games, you’ll find lots of them. Even so, only two games were really popular. These were Spiderman 2 and, of course, this game. While the gap of time between the two games is quite large, many feel like this is the successor to Spiderman 2.
     The controls on this game will take some time to get used to and master, but once you do, you may appreciate all the different features they packed right onto your controller.
Here’s the layout:

     The most important part is most likely the fighting and web swinging. The web swinging is fluid and excels even more once you start going fast. You can also walk on walls and perch on objects. There are so many fighting styles. Even if you don’t like this game, you have to agree that the options are exciting! You can even disarm someone with a web and then swing it into them. The raw fighting style is good too, and strategy is needed to win against your enemies, which also helps to create a challenge for not only new players but old ones as well. Even on the “normal” difficulty setting, the game is still quite challenging. I myself think that the raw combat is well worth the hefty price tag.

     60 dollars. If we look at the amount of playable content in here, plus the DLC, the game is well worth it. Plus, the open world gameplay in a hyper-realistic recreation of New York City keeps you immersed in the game even after you complete the story. So, now, you know what to do. Go get Spider-Man now!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. in the vector article, there is no link. Just search up on youtube, "Anki Vector Commercial, or go to anki.com.

  3. I love the COG review and I agree; that movie's plot gave me a headache!


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